Here we are on the week of the NCAA Championships with the first tournament of being back to normal since the start of the pandemic. Like always, the Big Ten will be major players in the team standings, but the Ivy League is back after not playing any sports at all over last year.
There’s no question that Penn State has to wrestle a lot better than it did two weekends ago at the Big Ten Championships. Will Michigan do it again with another team championship? Will Iowa repeat as national champions?
It also can’t be discounted that the Nittany Lions and Wolverines only have nine of the 10 weight classes represented, but Iowa will send all 10 starters to Detroit.
Wrestling will begin at noon on Thursday for Session 1, followed by Session 2 at 7 p.m. Friday’s action will begin at 11 a.m. with Session 3, with Session 4 also being that night at 8 p.m. Saturday’s day session will be at 11 a.m. with the finals beginning at 7 p.m.
Without further adieu, here are my predictions for the 2022 national champions by weight class.
125 – Nick Suriano, Michigan: There was originally some hope that PSU’s Drew Hildebrandt could make some noise and challenge Suriano for the championship. With the way Hildebrandt wrestled at Big Tens, I just don’t see it anymore, especially now that Suriano and Hildebrandt could meet up in the second round on Thursday night. Actually you could make an argument that Suriano’s toughest matches are going to be in the earlier rounds than the semifinals and finals. If Hildebrandt could battle back through the consolations, that could be huge for the Nittany Lions.
133 – Roman Bravo-Young, Penn State: I wrote for Big Ten predictions that I don’t think RBY is going to be stopped this year, and I’m not about to change my mind after Big Tens. You would think he would see Iowa’s Austin DeSanto again in the semifinals, and Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix should come out of the other side of the bracket as the No. 2 seed. Fix was Bravo-Young’s opponent in last year’s finals, as well.
141 – Nick Lee, Penn State: I wrote last weekend about my theory that Lee and Iowa’s Jaydin Eierman would wrestle three times this season and Lee would take two out of three of them. However, Eierman medically forfeited in the Big Ten finals, and it makes you wonder if he did it for a reason other than getting prepared for NCAAs. For that reason, I’m changing my theory. This weight is interesting, and Lee definitely won’t have a picnic with Stanford’s Real Woods in the semifinals if they meet.
149 – Yianni Diakomihalis, Cornell: I don’t see anyone challenging Diakomihalis here. Whoever comes out in the semifinals and finals against him will probably be happy to keep it close with him. It will be interesting to see what Penn State’s Beau Bartlett will do as the 13 seed. You would think Ohio State’s Sammy Sasso will get him in the second round, and Bartlett could also play a key role for the Nittany Lions, much like Hildebrandt.
157 – Ryan Deakin, Northwestern: This is the first weight that I’m not picking the top seed to win, and I know Deakin could have very well been No. 1, too. Iowa State’s David Carr is the top seed, and I have no reason to not believe it will be a 1 vs. 2 matchup in the final. We’ll see what Brady Berge can do as the 16 seed. With a win, he would almost certainly see Carr in the second round. Ditto Hildebrandt and Bartlett for Berge.
165 – Keegan O’Toole, Missouri: Iowa’s Alex Marinelli sure can win the Big Tens, but he hasn’t been able to prove he can win the even bigger one at nationals. I believe O’Toole will get him in the semifinals. The top seed is Cal Poly’s Evan Wick, who transferred there from Wisconsin. Of course, he will know how rugged Big Ten competition is. His best place in the Big Tens was fourth. It’s hard to imagine him being ready to win the tournament. This is the only weight that Penn State is not represented in the tournament.
174 – Carter Starocci, Penn State: I’m having trouble with Starocci possibly seeing Iowa’s Michael Kemerer in the semifinals. If that happens, I believe whoever wins the match will have an easier time in the finals. Give me Starocci again though. Something about his motivation after the last dual meet makes me think he’s not losing the rest of the way.
184 – Aaron Brooks, Penn State: That same dilemma I have with Starocci and Kemerer is also the same way I feel about Brooks and Michigan’s Myles Amine. It’s a coin flip in both matches. At least in this one Brooks and Amine would see each other for the title. Brooks certainly had his opportunity to beat Amine at Big Tens, and he probably should have won. You would think that match has probably been eating at him since last Sunday. My guess is it’s a lesson learned for Brooks and he’ll prevail this time.
197 – Max Dean, Penn State: That’s right. I’m picking half of Penn State’s lineup to be national champions. Not that Dean isn’t going to be seriously challenged for it. In fact, I believe he will have three Big Ten opponents straight from the quarterfinals through finals in Michigan State’s Cameron Caffey, Michigan’s Patrick Brucki, and Nebraska’s Eric Schultz, respectively.
285 – Gable Steveson, Minnesota: There aren’t any questions here about the national champion, is there? Didn’t think so. Steveson will probably roll through the bracket in what will probably be his last stop before going to WWE. The question is will PSU’s Greg Kerkvliet see Steveson in the semifinals? I think so, and Kerkvliet will be lucky to keep it a decision. It would still be a really nice season for Kerkvliet if he could wrestle back for third place though.
Team champion – Penn State: If the Lions really come out of nationals with half the lineup being champions, it’s hard to imagine Iowa or Michigan having enough to beat them. Having five champions would be important, but it is almost equally as important for Hildebrandt, Bartlett, Berge, and Kerkvliet to get as many points as possible wrestling back through the consolations.